Originally created 09/24/05

Officials trying to limit towers



At least one big addition possible for the Evans Town Center isn't being welcomed with open arms.

It's the cell phone tower, something that is becoming more of an issue in an area that continues to grow in population and cell phone users. At issue is whether tall towers take away from the aesthetics of the area.

"We would rather not have them if we can avoid them, particularly in the town center and around the main residential areas," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. "If we can encourage them more from the industrial areas or out a little bit, then we're going to try to do that.''

County commissioners recently received a request for a 150-foot-tall cell phone tower to be placed at a former State Farm office at the Evans Government Complex. That office is slated to be used, in part, by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office as a new substation. Officials had said a new tower there would help communications by the sheriff's office and the county's emergency services.

The idea of a new tower in the area wasn't approved and an alternative has now been agreed on.

"It (the alternate equipment) comes off the top of the building and the total height is about 50 feet instead of 150," Mr. Cross said.

Including a tower approved a year ago, there are about four cell phone towers in the Evans Town Center area.

The most recent tower approved by county officials was proposed by Alltel near University Health Care off North Belair Road, but some officials argued that cell phone companies should share towers as much as possible to prevent the need for more in the area.

Alltel officials, which said the tower was needed because of increased cell phone demand in the Evans area, said it could be shared by at least five companies.

Mr. Cross said another suggestion also might be explored.

"We're probably going to make a suggestion that if any go up, that they be disguised like these you can get that look like a tree,'' he said.

The Evans Town Center isn't the only place in Columbia County where cell phone towers are being scrutinized. Mr. Cross said a proposal was recently made to place a cell phone tower at 634 Furys Ferry Road.

"We've still got to look at that, and the citizens are not happy with those things,'' Mr. Cross said.

Mr. Cross said he knows the tower issue will become prominent in the county as cell phone usage increases.

"We're going to try to discourage that (cell phone towers in the Evans Town Center), but we still understand that these are utilities and people need service,'' Mr. Cross said. "And cell phone service ain't the best in the world now. You're going to need some other relay stations.''

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross says officials might look into having any future cell phone equipment placed on county water towers to prevent more cell phone towers from being erected in the Evans Town Center and residential areas. He said commissioners also might consider a requirement for cell towers to blend into their surroundings by having new towers resemble trees.